How To Build Van Life Community On The Road

Learn how to find community while traveling and get tips for finding fun van life events and connecting with like-minded people.

Learn how to find a van life community while traveling on the road. Read our tips for finding like-minded travelers and fun van life events.

One of the top questions we get asked about van life is about meeting people on the road.

“Don’t you get lonely traveling by yourself (or just with a partner)?

How do you meet other van lifers?”

Cultivating a van life community can absolutely help to create a more fulfilling experience in your travels. In fact, I’ll say without hesitation, that meeting other like-minded people who are all living life a bit unconventionally is one of my favorite parts of van life.

Depending on your lifestyle, how often you move, where you camp, and the activities you partake in, it’s not always easy to meet up with people. So in this blog post, I’m going to share some important tips for finding a van life community, especially for those of you who are planning to do van life solo.

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Visit Friends & Family

One of the things I appreciate most about having my van is the freedom to visit friends and family along my travels. When I worked at an office job, I didn’t have the ability to leave and visit my loved ones for more than a few days at a time.

Now, I’m able to stay as long as I want (or as long as I’m welcome!) without missing work. So know that if you ever get lonely on the road, you can use that as an opportunity to build on your existing friendships and relationships.

You might even be surprised by long-lost friends who reach out to show you around their town, offer a warm shower, or a safe place to park at night!

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How to Meet Other Van Lifers

Aside from seeing familiar faces, you’ll also be able to make new connections with people you’d otherwise never get to meet when you’re on the road. In theory, living and traveling in a van might seem isolating because you’re not in a traditional neighborhood, shopping at the same grocery stores, working out at the same gym, or seeing your colleagues at an office job. But there are actually a lot of places and ways to find community even if you move around frequently.

Let’s talk about some of the places and tools available to help link you up with new people on your travels:

Social Media

The first place you can find van life community is on social media platforms. Even if you don’t spend a lot of time on social media, sites like Facebook and Instagram are a great place for connecting with like-minded people. Each of the various platforms have their pros and cons, but they’re valuable tools in making connections on the road.

Facebook

Facebook has many groups dedicated to van life, including location-specific pages that are free to join. These van life groups are a great place to discuss all things van life, ask questions, and meet other people with vans.

When BFT team member Courtney first hit the road in 2020, she joined a solo female van life Facebook group where fellow travelers could connect. People would often write short introductions and any time someone had similar interests, she’d send them a quick message to connect (usually via Instagram). I’ll link to a few of our favorite Facebook groups in the Resources Section below.

It’s especially helpful to join groups and pages for the places you’re headed to. For example, if you know you’ll be spending a month in Southern Utah, you can follow the Moab tourism board and search to see if there is a Facebook group for Moab locals. Here you’ll likely find info on upcoming events, classes, and other happenings where there will be the opportunity to connect with locals.

Activity-specific groups are also a great way to meet people with similar interests. Whatever activity you’re into, look for a meetup group or post on the local Facebook page expressing interest in getting together. People are usually happy to share information about their town if you express an interest in their community.

Learn how to find a van life community while traveling on the road and get tips for finding like-minded travelers and fun van life events.
Social media is a great tool to meet other van lifers

Instagram

Instagram is another popular tool for connecting and can be used similarly to Facebook. Reach out to people if you know they’ll be in the same vicinity, or if they’re not but it seems like you’d have some things in common, send a nice message to establish a connection. Then, maybe down the road, you’ll have the opportunity to meet in person.

It may sound intimidating to slide into someone’s DMs at first, but you’d be surprised how many van life friendships have been made through Instagram – it’s one of the most popular tools for meeting and staying connected on the road.

When meeting new people, particularly on social media, make sure to use your street smarts. It’s a better idea to meet a new person somewhere public or in a group, versus giving them directions to your campsite way out in the middle of nowhere. This way you’ll be able to get a feeling for whether this person is someone you actually want to spend time with before committing to camping with them for an extended period of time.

Sēkr App

Sēkr (formerly known as The Van Life App) is a women-owned app built by fellow van lifers that has an amazing  Community Calendar. Here you can find upcoming van life meetups and gatherings, caravan invitations, and other opportunities to connect with other van lifers.

With your Sēkr profile, you can also opt-in to see other Sēkr members in your general area and send friend requests based on shared interests. This is a great way to find community on the road!

Van Gatherings

If social media isn’t your thing, you can find community on the road by attending a van gathering or van-focused event. Meeting other people with vans is a lot of fun because you’ve instantly got one thing in common and you get to see how they do it!

There are many van gatherings throughout the year at various locations in the US, including Bearfoot Theory’s very own Open Roads Fest, our annual van life festival, which is about so much more than just the vans. In addition to workshops that cover all aspects of van life, we have mountain biking, paddle boarding, yoga, live music, and more. This makes it a great opportunity, not only to meet other van lifers, but specifically travelers who are interested in outdoor adventure.

I’ll also mention that you don’t have to have a van to come to Open Roads. In 2022, we had nearly 60 tent campers who came to learn about the lifestyle before taking the plunge. So if you’re still in the research phase, the Open Roads community welcomes you with open arms.

For other gatherings – Descend on Bend, Descend On Lost Sierra, Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, Tiny House Fest, Vanarky, and Escapar a la Baja are other popular events in the US and Baja.

If it’s your first time living in a van, make it a priority to attend one of these gatherings. I promise you won’t regret it – it’s a real good time and chances are likely you’ll leave with a bunch of new friends.

Check out the top highlights from Bearfoot Theory's Open Roads Fest - a van life festival and campout for outdoor enthusiasts in Idaho.
Open Roads 2019 | attending a van gathering is a great way to meet fellow van lifers

Kift

Kift is a van community-run project offering a new way to live and work wherever you want, without giving up the relationships or comforts of home.

Members have access to a network of community houses offering coworking spaces, fast wifi, communal meals, hot showers, laundry, and a beautiful setting to park their vans.

In order to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion within the van community, Kift also awards up to 5 free seasonal membership grants each month.

Popular Van Life Destinations

You’ll definitely run into other van lifers in popular van life destinations – especially in small towns or at trailhead parking lots. This is a great way to meet fellow travelers and connect. Just remember common van courtesy: just because someone has their door open, doesn’t mean they’re inviting you for a tour or a long conversation. Be friendly, say hi, and use your best judgment.

Learn how to find a van life community while traveling on the road and get tips for finding like-minded travelers and fun van life events.
It’s easy to meet other van lifers in popular van life destinations

Public Work Spaces

Another place you can find community as a van lifer is through work. Even though you might not be going to the same place every day for work, you still have a chance to meet people while working on the road. Depending on the type of work you end up doing, you’ll have the opportunity to be introduced to different people.

If you are doing remote computer work, you can still feel the sense of comradery without the cubicle atmosphere because more and more cities are opening up coworking spaces for remote workers to come together and work. Look for these coworking offices whenever you’ll be passing through a town or bigger city and introduce yourself to some of the people you encounter. Coffee shops are also a great place to meet new people on the road.

If you end up doing seasonal work, on farms, vineyards, camp hosting, or something like that, you’ll definitely meet new and interesting people.

Classes, Workshops, and Events

Classes, workshops, farmers markets, and events are also great places to meet local members of the community you’re traveling through and maybe even other van lifers.

If you’re able to plan ahead of time, check out the event calendar on the Chamber of Commerce website, local Facebook groups, the local REI, or yoga and dance studios to find out what’s going on.

Learn how to find a van life community while traveling on the road and get tips for finding like-minded travelers and fun van life events.

Van Owner Communities

In addition to the van owner Facebook groups mentioned in the social media section above, some van conversion companies have their own van owners networks to help facilitate community among their customers. And some even host meetups for their community to provide opportunities for van owners to connect with one another.

For example, Storyteller Overland, a company that builds adventure-ready 4×4 Sprinter and Ford campervans, goes above and beyond and has created an incredible community of MODE van owners. They host events and have an insider Facebook group where owners of their vans can connect and share stories. The community is so large that MODE van owners host their own events and get togethers as well!

We love that Storyteller Overland is such a community focused company. They make it a point to support van life events across the U.S. – including our very own Open Roads Fest – and really see community as one of the most important parts of van life.

“It’s not about the journey or the destination, it’s the people you connect with all along the way that matter most.” – Storyteller Overland

Ultimately, building a community while traveling in your van might take a little more effort than you’re used to at first. I’ve found that people are willing to connect with you if you share with them your story, what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and that you’d like to make some friends along the way. Show interest in them and their community, and they’ll probably be more receptive to welcoming you in.

RESOURCES

Here are some of my favorite events, online communities, and groups in the van life space:

How have you built your van life community and made friendships on the road? What has helped you connect with like-minded people? Share your questions, tips, and experiences down in the comments.

Are you a van lifer looking for a sense of community on the road?We've got all the tips and tricks you need to connect with fellow travelers and build a supportive community while living life on the road. From online forums and social media groups to in-person meetups and events, our guide offers a variety of ways to make meaningful connections with like-minded individuals. Whether you're a solo traveler or part of a van life family, our post has something for everyone.

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5 Comments

  1. I haven’t found a site that is designed to allow Van life people to connect with locals. I’m sure there is one out there somewhere but if not I would leave it to that community to establish one. Obviously there’s many of us out there that are willing to lend support to the community such as laundry shower warm bed and tips for our area.

    1. That would be a great resource for van lifers. We’ll keep our eyes and ears open and if we hear about something like that, we’ll share it!

    2. Hi Aloe (I hope u don’t mind my calling u that here)!
      This is Art n Kiko, the big black Labrador Retriever. Remember? We met and you told me ur story and ambitions at Stan Sayers yesterday (Sept. 2022! ). Anyway, I just happened to see ur name here (it’s one of a kind and I KNEW it was you) so, I had to connect! U really impressed me with ur knowledge and vocabulary which I think stems from you reading 20+ books at once!! ’). Anyway, it was a pleasure meeting you and hope that someday I cud attend one of your groups!! We all cud learn from you!!
      Art-n-Kiko

  2. So…I am in the process of planning my move to; what I like to call “Living Mindfully Free” aka #vanlife
    I do have a few destinations on my list that I am 100% comfortable going alone.
    My question I’d like to ask all of you is if there is any kind of group\page\website\app where a person could find a traveling buddy? Simply for the different experiences as well as the company obviously lol. (Tbh the safety aspect of not being completly alone is why I need to ask bc I have PTSD, stemming from a violent ex kidnapping me, hours away from home and then left me in the middle of the woods with absolutely nothing. It was actually my Fb friends that figured out I was missing and I was found 5 days later.)

    1. Hi Alli, that sounds like a traumatic event & glad to hear you are OK. One of our favorite apps to find traveling buddies is Sekr – you can create a profile and find nearby van lifers (it does not give your exact location), along with upcoming van gatherings and campsites, etc. There are also various Facebook groups to find people to travel with. Best of luck!